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Water Summit encourages volunteerism for water quality efforts

May 30, 2019
WOLFEBORO — On Saturday, May 11, Wentworth Watershed Association (WWA) President Anne Blodget addressed a crowd in the Great Hall of around 150 – 180 citizens interested in how to protect the watershed areas of Lake Winnipesaukee and the number of surrounding lakes.

The event, the third annual Wolfeboro Water Summit, was at least six months in the planning, according to Blodget, who thanked the WWA staff, dedicated volunteers and major underwriters: the Wolfeboro Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and Edward Jones/Kevin Lawlor, Financial Advisor; and numerous other supporters for making such an extensive production possible.

Wolfeboro resident Don Kretchmer, of DK Water Consulting, moderated the day's program, which included representatives from a number of lake associations: Larry Gil, board member of the Mirror Lake Protective Association and active member of Tuftonboro's Conservation Commission; Pat Tarpey, Ex. Dir. Lake Winnipesaukee Association, which is undertaking a watershed study including Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro; Keith Simpson, Pres.of the Rust Pond Association; and Julie Brown, Ex. Dir. of the Wentworth Watershed Foundation.

The lake associations have been key to acquiring funds to assist in watershed mapping and promoting efforts to improve water quality, such as septic system management, installation of rain gardens (NH DES' SOAK Up the Rain endeavor) and water monitoring.

Bob Craycraft, Lakes Monitoring Coordinator with the UNH Cooperative Extension Service, a position instrumental to lake monitoring efforts throughout the area since 1998 (when he was a graduate student), and Jim Haney, PhD, Professor of Biological Sciences/UNH returned this year, and chemist Warren Muir, resident of Winter Harbor, active water sampler, and a member of the newly formed Cyanobacteria Task Force spoke as well.

The emphasis was on information on the science of water quality, the threat of cyanobacteria present in lake bottoms, efforts underway by the various lake associations, encouragement of members of the public to participate in water monitoring, and the difference individuals can make through their personal choices in maintaining their property.

A cyanobacteria bloom in Winter Harbor reported by Muir last September led to the formation of the town's Cyanobacteria Committee and the drawing up of a warrant article for $50,000 toward water quality improvements, watershed education and water quality testing. Voters approved it; next steps include recruitment of more volunteers.

Muir spoke on the neurotoxins produced in varying degrees by the different strains of cyanobacteria, which live in the bottom of the lake, attracting notice only when the water warms and they move up the water column to create an algal bloom on the surface. The committee was formed to monitor the water for levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that stimulate algal growth, reduce water clarity and encourage the proliferation of cyanobacteria.

The committee also will establish protocols when a bloom is spotted, such as that in Winnepesaukee and potentially in Crescent Lake where towns maintain public beaches, thus endangering the general public and requiring precautions, beach closures for example. He pointed out the extent of the nutrient runoff into Winnipesaukee from the Cricket Hill development up at the Main Street end of Forest Road and down from the other end of Forest Road as an example.

Professor Haney took the audience through a slide program describing the biology of the cyanobacteria in detail (view it in its entirety as filmed by Wolfeboro Community Television on wolfeboronh.us) and emphasized the link between water quality and human health. Canines are the "mine canaries" of the threat of cyanobacteria to the nervous system said Haney. It can be lethal within hours when drinking water from the lake when a bloom happens to be out, said Haney.

He said research is underway on "worrisome" clusters of neurological diseases, such as ALS, Parkinsons disease and Alzheimer clusters around the world in areas where cyanobacteria have appeared and possible connections with non-alcoholic liver disease. Haney emphasized the need for citizens to aid science by observing and reporting blooms.

The WWA printed a few reminders in their program brochure of steps citizens can take to protect the water quality: avoid fertilizing, but if you must, make sure the middle number, an indication of phosphorus (prime food for the cyanobacteria living in lake sediment), is zero; pump, check, and maintain your septic system regularly; create a vegetative buffer at the shoreline if you live lakeside, pick up and properly dispose of pet waste, and fix obvious erosion areas on your property.

Reduce your use of household chemicals and pesticides and take advantage of Household Hazardous Waste disposal days – Wolfeboro and Alton participate in the Lakes Region Household Hazardous Waste Product Facility disposal opportunities on third Saturdays May – October. Tuftonboro has an August date coming up in Ossipee through tis contract with the Lakes Region Planning Commission.

The New Hampshire Lakes/Lake Host program asks that when trailering your watercraft, remember to clean, drain, and dry it when you come ashore to prevent the spread of invasives, that add excess nutrients and create the low light conditions that encourage harmful bacteria.

An opportunity is also coming up on Wednesday, June 26, at the Brewster Academy Boathouse for people interested in learning how to identify cyanobacteria blooms. Dr. Hilary Snook (USEPA) and Dr. Shane Bradt (UNH) will bring a USEPA Mobile Laboratory for a 9:30 – 11 a.m. session. An additional session from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., will be added if necessary. Contact the lake association of your choice to register.

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